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Because of You by Helene Fermont

2.10.16




Hannah arrives in London from Sweden in the Seventies and experiences love - and heartbreak, when she meets womaniser Mark. However her affections are split when she encounters high-flying Ben. But heiress Vanessa will stop at nothing to claim Ben as her own and sets in motion a series of shocking events… 

Now the dark nights are closing in on us it’s time to add some books to your reading pile… First up, Because of You by Helene Fermont. 

I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers and this certainly didn’t disappoint. Completely gripping, I finished this in one sitting as I was desperate to know what would happen to all the characters. 

A fine debut from Helene Fermont - I can’t wait to read her next novel! 

*Book review* One for the Nordic Noir fans...

11.5.16


I'm not a fan of Nordic Noir books - it just isn't a genre I enjoy. But my friend Laura from the fab foodie blog, A Second Serving, does love it and raved about Kristina Ohlsson's, The Chosen so much that I asked her to review it for me. And she kindly obliged…  


On a cold winter's day, a pre-school teacher is shot to death in front of parents and children at the Jewish school in Stockholm. Just a few hours later, two boys go missing on their way to tennis practice. A heavy snowstorm hits the city and the traces of the perpetrator are few and far between. 
Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht are faced with one of their toughest challenges ever as they hunt for a killer who is merciless as he is effective. The leads are diverse, but all point to the same place: Israel. And someone called the Paper Boy keeps popping up in the police investigation. But who is this mysterious figure? Could he possibly have resurfaced in Stockholm, now claiming new victims? 

Laura says: The Chosen is a Swedish no. 1 bestseller and I can see why as it's tense, dense and incredibly atmospheric. 

This is the fifth book in the Bergman and Recht series, something I didn't realise before starting! Although this is an entirely new story, it felt like there were a lot of characters which meant it could get a bit confusing – if I'd read from the start it might have made things easier. 

Despite that, The Chosen was an excellent read in the Nordic-crime genre. It's a complicated story about revenge and has a real labyrinthine of a plot with its roots in the past and also the present. Interestingly, you know the ending of the story from the very start as the novel jumps around in time but you're still kept guessing the whole way through. It has a great ending too, with a fabulous twist, one that left me with a lump in my throat. 

Despite being quite a complicated read I was thoroughly engaged by the story and would recommend to others who enjoy this type of crime fiction. 

Sound like your cup of tea? Buy it here… 

Books I loved in April… ❤️

8.5.16

I've read some great books this month. Here's my round-up… 


Shop Girl (A Memoir) by Mary Portas 

Young Mary Newton, born into a large Irish family in a small Watford semi, was always getting into trouble. When she wasn’t choking back fits of giggles at Holy Communion or eating Chappie dog food for a bet, she was accidentally setting fire to the local school. Mary was a trouble magnet. And, unlike her brothers, somehow she always got caught…
In Mary’s family, money was scarce. Clothes were hand-me-downs, holidays a church day out to Hastings and meals were variations on the potato. But these were also good times which revolved around the force of nature that was Theresa, Mary’s mum.
When tragedy unexpectedly blows this world apart, a new chapter in Mary’s life opens up. She takes to the camp and glamour of Harrods window dressing like a duck to water, and Mary, Queen of Shops is born…

I love Mary Portas. She's super sassy and sure knows her stuff. And after reading Shop Girl I admire her all the more as she's got where she is through sheer hard work and determination. 

A completely brilliant autobiography. 


The Woolworths Girls by Elaine Everest 

It's 1938 and as the threat of war hangs over the country, Sarah Caselton is preparing for her new job at Woolworths. Before long, she forms a tight bond with two of her colleagues: the glamorous Maisie and shy Freda. The trio couldn't be more different, but they immediately form a close-knit friendship, sharing their hopes and dreams for the future.
Sarah soon falls into the rhythm of her new position, enjoying the social events hosted by Woolies and her blossoming romance with young assistant manager, Alan. But with the threat of war clouding the horizon, the young men and women of Woolworths realize that there are bigger battles ahead. It's a dangerous time for the nation, and an even more perilous time to fall in love . . .
I have a real thing for books set around the Second World War era so when The Woolworths Girls landed on my desk I couldn't wait to get stuck in - and it didn't disappoint. 

Brilliant characters and a lovely storyline, The Woolworths Girls is a brilliant debut from Elaine Everest. Can't wait to read more from her.  


Under Italian Skies by Nicky Pellegrino 

Stella has life under control - and that's the way she likes it. For twenty-five years, she's been trusted assistant to a legendary fashion designer, but after her boss dies suddenly, she's left with nothing to do apart from clear the studio.
It seems as though the life she wanted has vanished. She is lost - until one day she finds a house swap website and sees a beautiful old villa in a southern Italian village. Could she really exchange her poky London flat for that?
But what was intended as just a break becomes much more, as Stella finds herself trying on a stranger's life. As the villa begins to get under her skin, she can't help but imagine the owner from the clues around her. She meets his friends, cooks the local food he recommends and follows suggestions to go to his favourite places. But can an idea of someone ever match up to the reality?
As Stella wonders if she can let go of the safety of her past, perhaps there's a chance for her to find a way into her future...

As with My Map of You, I do love a book set in a pretty part of the world where if I closed my eyes, I could imagine I am there. As soon as I was finished with Under Italian Skies, I wanted to pack my bags and head to Italy for my own adventure! 

This book is just perfect for reading in the sun with a bottle of Prosecco. Salute! 


The Disappearance by Annabel Kantaria 

Audrey Bailey will never forget the moment she met Ralph Templeton in the sweltering heat of a Bombay café. Her lonely life over, she was soon married with two small children. But things in the Templeton household were never quite what they seemed.
Now approaching 70, and increasingly a burden on the children she’s never felt close to, Audrey plans a once-in-a-lifetime cruise around the Greek isles. Forcing twins Lexi and John along for the ride, the Templetons set sail as a party of three – but only two will return.
On the night of her birthday, Audrey goes missing…hours after she breaks the news that the twins stand to inherit a fortune after her death. As the search of the ship widens, so does the list of suspects – and with dark clues emerging about Audrey’s early life, the twins begin to question if they can even trust one another…

I loved Annabel Kantaria's debut novel, Coming Home   - and The Disappearance was just as good. In fact it was completely gripping and as the plot unfolded I found myself really unable to put it down. 

With lots of twists and turns, this book has an ending you really won't have expected… 


The Chocolate Lovers Wedding by Carole Matthews 

The ladies of The Chocolate Lovers' Club should be gearing up for the wedding of the year but life keeps getting in the way . . .
Lucy is worried about her financial situation and it keeps distracting her. Should she accept an offer of help from an untrustworthy source? Nadia may have a real chance at finding love but other areas of her life aren't so rosy. Something needs to change - but what? Autumn can't wait to meet someone she hasn't seen in a very long time. She's full of hope for the future but then things don't exactly go to plan… And Chantal has been through so much and she's finally starting to feel settled. The last thing she needs is the kind of bad news that could change her life all over again.
Yet, despite all the ups and downs, the Chocolate Lovers' ladies know they can get through it all as long as they have each other. They're not going to let anything get in the way of their happy-ever-afters...

Oh I do love a good wedding story! Especially a 'will they, won't they?' wedding story… And no one writes them better than Carole Matthews. 

With brilliant characters and a great storyline, you will laugh out loud in places and get teary in others. A perfect summer read. 


The Followers by Rebecca Wait 

Judith has been visiting her mother, Stephanie, in prison once a month for the last eight years. But neither of them can bring themselves to talk about what brought them here - or about Nathaniel . . .
When Stephanie first meets him, she is a struggling single mother and Nathaniel is a charismatic outsider, unlike anyone she's ever known. In deciding to join the small religious cult he has founded high on the moors, Stephanie thinks she is doing the best for her daughter: a new home, a new life, a new purpose.
Judith has never trusted Nathaniel, but even she can't foresee the terrible things that lie ahead. From the moment they arrive, the delicate dynamic of Nathaniel's followers is disturbed. Judith's restlessness and questions unsettle the children who've never known life outside the cult - all except loyal Moses, who will do anything to be her friend. Meanwhile, as Stephanie slowly surrenders herself to Nathaniel's will, tensions deepen, faith and doubt collide, and a horrifying act of violence changes everything. In the shattering aftermath, no one seems safe, and for Judith and Moses the biggest leap of faith is still to come . . .
The Followers is an example of why you should never judge a book by its cover… I picked it up and wasn't sure I was going to like it. But just a chapter in and I was completely hooked. 
I find religious cults a completely fascinating topic and I really enjoyed how it was written - starting in the present day and then flipping back to 10 years ago. It's such an atmospheric read you can't help but be slightly terrified as you wonder how on earth it's all going to end… I can't recommend enough. 

My Map of You by Isabelle Broom

1.5.16


Holly Wright has had a difficult few years. After her mother's death, she's become expert at keeping people at a distance - including her boyfriend, Rupert.
But when Holly receives an unexpected letter explaining that an aunt she never met has left her a house on the Greek island of Zakynthos, the walls she has built begin to crumble. Arriving on the island, Holly meets the handsome Aidan and slowly begins to uncover the truth about the secret which tore her family apart.
But is the island where Holly really belongs? Or will her real life catch up with her first?

Hurrah! The sun is out! Finally… It feels like it's been winter forever. I'm more than ready to ditch the tights and boots for bare legs and flip-flops. 
And when the sun does make that rare appearance it always makes me crave a holiday where the sun is guaranteed. And this year, thanks to Isabelle Broom, I can't get the idea of jetting off to Zakynthos out of my head… 
I read My Map of Year back in February and it gave me serious wanderlust. The reality was I was reading sat on my sofa, heating on, blanket covering my knees as the wind and rain battered against the window. But as I turned the pages I forgot about the cold, bad weather outside as I was completely transported to the sunny Greek island. Isabelle's writing is SO good it really does make you feel like you're there. 
As well as the wonderful setting, the characters are all super likeable too (apart from the very annoying Rupert…) and you can't help but cross your fingers and hope that after all she's been through, Holly gets a happy ever after… 
I can't rave about My Map of You enough. It's a superb debut novel and I urge you all to put it on your 'to-read' piles. But be warned - post reading you will be desperate to book a holiday… 
Because I am super nosy I like to know about the 'behind the scenes' bits of writing a book. And Isabelle kindly told me the four things she always has to have on her writer's desk - and the one thing she shouldn't… 

1) Tea! I can’t recall a single time I’ve sat down to write at my desk without a cuppa to hand. I’ve even got a special mug that I use. It was a gift from my amazing editor Kimberley Atkins, and she brought it back all the way from Disney World for me.

2) Laptop! Okay, so this one is obvious, but I wouldn’t get very far without the beautiful little beast. It was actually a gift from an ex-boyfriend who did a VERY BAD THING to me, so every time I use it I get a small sense of satisfaction that I’ve used it to be happy and make all my dreams come true.

3) Travel guides! These are an essential for me, because my novels are all set abroad. And while I do take trips overseas to research my locations and make pages of notes, I still like the books there as a reference. Plus, some of the place names in Prague, where my second book is set, are very tricky to spell correctly – even for a sub-editor!

4) Max! My lovely dog is the perfect writing companion. Not only does he keep my feet warm by sitting on them when it’s cold, he also listens very patiently when I read the same paragraph aloud twenty times over as I try to get it right. No human would ever put up with that nonsense! One of these days I’ll have to dedicate a book to him…

…And one thing I really shouldn’t


Oh, definitely my phone. Does everyone say the same thing? Sometimes the temptation to check Twitter becomes overwhelming, and there’s always the chance that it could ring and distract me. But I’m a needy soul, what can I say? One of these days I’ll drop it in my tea or the dog will eat it – that’ll teach me!




A brilliant crime novel...

12.4.16

A woman at home in Liverpool is disturbed by a persistent tapping at her back door. She's disturbed to discover the culprit is a raven, and tries to shoo it away. Which is when the killer strikes.

DS Nathan Cody, still bearing the scars of an undercover mission that went horrifyingly wrong, is put on the case. But the police have no leads, except the body of the bird - and the victim's missing eyes.
As flashbacks from his past begin to intrude, Cody realises he is battling not just a murderer, but his own inner demons too.
And then the killer strikes again, and Cody realises the threat isn't to the people of Liverpool after all - it's to the police...

I scare very easily. I am convinced that one day a zombie apocalypse could happen and I even get jumpy when watching Jurassic Park (seriously).  
With this in mind, I really shouldn’t have picked up and started reading A Tapping at My Door when my husband was on a night shift… This book needs to come with a serious warning – do not read when you’re home alone.

50 pages in I was convinced that I could hear someone knocking on my front door (it doesn’t help that I live in an apartment block with thin walls so I can always hear comings and goings…) and then when I finally did sleep, I dreamt that my balcony was full of birds all trying to get in and get me…

So basically, David Jackson’s A Tapping at My Door is completely unsettling but completely brilliant. It’s one of those books where you can never predict quite how it’s going to end. 

On a side note, I really enjoy books that are set in places I am familiar with. I was a student in Liverpool for four years and still visit a lot so a lot of the places and street names were places I’ve been too so I could really visualize the characters and what was happening in the plot even more – maybe that’s why it made it so much more scarier?!

I can’t believe I have never read any of David Jackson’s novels before. A Tapping on My Door is certainly one of the best crime fiction novels I have read in a while and I can't wait to read more of his work.


A romance novel you just have to read...

10.4.16



Kate and Becca are cousins and best friends. They have grown up together and shared all the most important milestones in their lives: childhood birthday parties, eighteenth birthdays, and now a wedding day as they each marry their childhood sweethearts, Charlie and Julian. 
Kate has always loved Charlie - they were meant to be. Then she discovers that life never turns out quite how you expect it to. And love doesn't always follow the journey it should. 
But best friends are forever, and true love will find a way, won't it…?

I'm a sucker for a pretty book cover. I'm also a sucker for, and I've said this many times, books where fate intervenes early on and sends the characters in the book on a completely different path to what you'd expect. These Days of Ours ticked both these boxes so I was hooked instantly. 

We meet Kate and Becca when they are just children and then are taken on a journey throughout their lives as they reach major milestones. 

These Days of Ours is such brilliant storytelling and you can't help but have strong feelings for the characters (I loved Kate but found her a bit of a wet lettuce at times and I thought Becca needed a good slap but I couldn't help find her hilarious too!) 

It's a completely original novel and I was so engrossed from the start that I actually sailed past my tube stop! Early on I knew what I wanted to happen but I had no idea if it would pan out that way… And I'm not going to say anymore than that…!  

A 'Will they? Won't they?' romance novel that is just brilliant. I urge you to read it.  

And the author Juliet Ashton told me the top five things she does to beat writer's block...

Does Writer's Block exist? I believe it's a name given to a whole raft of situations. Tiredness, boredom, distraction, anxiety - all these help to build that block at the front of your mind. When I find myself sitting at the computer, deleting more than I write, tugging at my hair, these are my favourite ways to deal with it.

1 Do something physical. 
Writers are soooo indolent. We don't have to get dressed to go to work; that messes with your brain. So if I'm stuck in the midst of a scene, putting dull dialogue into my characters' mouths, I go for a walk. There are two parks nearby, one that hugs the river, so I take the spaniels for a trot. If I replay the scene in my head, nine times out of ten, it comes together by the time I'm home again.

2 Read
This one can be tricky. Reading something too similar to the work in progress can result in a kind of impersonation, as if writing style is catching, but if I wander off and bury myself in a meaty biography or a crime series, I find it refreshes my mojo. (Not sure what a mojo is, exactly, but its refreshed.)

3 Talk
Chat saves lives. A coffee with my chum who lives around the corner (and is usually up for coffee as she works from home herself) perks me up and takes me out of myself. Hearing about her day reminds me that there is life beyond the keyboard!

4 Eat
A dangerous one, this. A natural grazer, I find myself buttering toast and ravishing the Rich Tea biscuits far too often. Actually cooking something from scratch, however, is genuinely therapeutic. The book is pushed to the side, but it doesn't entirely disappear; as I'm chopping onions or grating cheese, little plot niggles resolve themselves. Plus I have an epic lunch to eat (usually it's just more toast).

5 Push through
Sometimes it's just lack of energy, or a disinclination to work that gets in the way. I try not to give in; if you downed tools every time you felt a little bleurgh no books would get written. Push, push, push - and suddenly you're freewheeling down a (metaphorical) hill, the wind in your (metaphorical) hair. There's no feeling quite like it.

6 (I know there should only be 5, but this one's a goodie)

Keeping a writing diary is a life saver. I can flick back and see that all these problems have cropped up before, but I've got through them. Writer's block can be smashed!

*Book Review and Author Chat* The Second Love of my Life by Victoria Walters

8.4.16




In the Cornish town of Talting, everyone is famous for something.
Until recently Rose was known for many things: her infectious positivity; her unique artistic talent; and her devotion to childhood sweetheart Lucas.
But two years ago that changed in one unthinkable moment. Now, Rose is known for being the young woman who became a widow aged just twenty-four.
Though Rose knows that life must go on, the thought of carving out a new future for herself is one she can barely entertain. Until a newcomer, Robert, arrives in Talting for the summer...

Can Rose allow herself the chance to love again?

I loved The Second Love of my Life immediately. The characters. The setting. And of course the story itself.
Whilist incredibly sad in places (have a box of tissues to hand), the book is also full of hope too and you’ll end with a smile on your face.  
A really impressive debut novel, I can’t to see what Victoria Walters has next up her sleeve! 
 
And on that note… Victoria spills the beans on writing The Second Love of my Life… 
Victoria with her co-author, her cat Harry!
The four things I have on my writers desk - and the one thing I shouldn't… 

I actually don’t have a desk, which I probably should get! But when I write I have my laptop and phone, a mug of tea and usually have a blanket draped over me as I get really cold writing!
What I shouldn’t have is my cat Harry who is always trying to distract me as I write!

The five things that inspired me to write this book…

This is a hard question!!! Just wanted to state that for the record! It wasn’t really things as such, more general life questions about grief and love but certain parts of the story were inspired these …

1. The town the book is set in: The Gilmore Girls
2. The main character’s art: Starry Night by Vincent Van Gough
3. The town the book is set in: Cornwall
4. The music the main character listens to and mentions: see soundtrack question
5. The cat Taylor – my own cat Harry!

The five things I learnt when writing this book… 

1. That I had been using ‘brought’ instead of ‘bought’!
2. How to re-read my writing again and again and not go crazy
3. My writing makes people cry
4. Editing notes are not about what is wrong with your book but how it could be made even better
5. That I can write a 90,000 word novel! There were moments when I wasn’t quite sure I’d make it.


My soundtrack to writing this book… 

I created a playlist for the book, which you can listen to on Spotify – here’s a sample of it:

1. Famous In A Small Town – Miranda Lambert
2. See You Again – Carrie Underwood
3. Some People – LeAnn Rimes
4. Better Place – Rachel Platten
5. Ready To Love Again – Lady Antebellum

The five things I couldn't have done without when writing this book… 

1. Twitter – talking to people helps me get through the tough writing days!
2. My cat Harry for making me laugh and for cuddles
3. Laptop obviously
4. Music – I have to listen to music when I write
5. Cake (self explanatory)

Perfect for the weekend, get your copy here...